A total of 660 members of the Navy of Mexico participated in the operation yesterday which resulted in the death of Ezequiel Cárdenas Guillén, alias "Tony Tormenta", a high ranking kingpin of the Gulf Drug Cartel.
The Secretary of the Navy said in a statement that a total of 660 military marines were deployed in the operation, and of these, 150 were in the first circle of action, supported by three helicopters and 17 armored vehicles.
In the gunfight four gunmen were killed that allegedly belonged to the inner circle of protection to "Tony Tormenta." Also killed were three marines while four others were wounded, said the Navy said in a statement.
A source explained that Mexican authorities had been following the trail of "Tony Tormenta" for the last six months and on Friday they received his location in a downtown neighborhood of Matamoros, a city bordering the United States, but when the first group of marines arrived, they were met with automatic gunfire and grenades.
This conflict unleashed a fierce gun battle which lasted for more than two hours, until the capo "Tony Tormenta", a native of Matamoros and at the age 48, finally fell.
Friday's daylong gunfights throughout Matamoros between cartel hit men and Mexican soldiers and marines plunged the city into chaos and panic, witnesses said, as armed men plowed through streets on the backs of pickup trucks.
Residents rushed in helter-skelter traffic to get home; many remained trapped in their offices. Cellphone service went down, further stoking fears as bursts of high-caliber weaponry could be heard for hours. International bridges into Texas were closed for a time.
Most of the fighting barely made a ripple in national news here in Mexico because local reporters in Tamaulipas, out of fear or corruption, have been trained to ignore cartel activities. Only when a journalist for a Matamoros newspaper was killed in the gun battle did the news begin to trickle out.
A source said that "Tony Tormenta" was one of the leaders to take control of the Gulf cartel in 2003, which has its influence on the east coast of Mexico, after his brother, Osiel Cardenas Guillen was arrested in Mexico and extradited to the United States.
The Mexican government considers the death of the Gulf cartel kingpin as a "significant" step in dismantling organized criminal groups "that have caused a lot of suffering to the people of our country," said the national security spokesman, Alejandro Poire.
In a press release read to the media, Poire congratulated the members of the Armed Forces who participated in the operation and expressed his deep condolences over the death of the soldiers "killed in the line of duty."
The Gulf cartel and the Zetas, once allies, have been disputing for the last couple of years in a bloody war for control of drug trafficking turf, which has left a bloodbath in its aftermath.
So far this year more than 10,000 people have been killed related to organized crime.
Tony Tormenta began his criminal career as a drug dealer in the 80s and quickly established himself as a Gulf Cartel leader after the arrest of his brother Osiel on March 14, 2003.
Antonio Ezequiel Cardenas Guillen, also known as "Tony Tormenta," or "TT" was killed on November 5, 2010 after a clash with the Mexican army in Matamoros, Tamaulipas. Tony Tormenta was one of the leaders of the criminal organization of the Gulf Cartel, was brother of Osiel Cardenas, and a business partner Jorge Eduardo Costilla Sanchez, alias "El Coss."
Cardenas Guillen is responsible for moving tons of marijuana and cocaine from Mexico to the United States and is one of Mexico's most wanted fugitives by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), who has offered a reward of up to $5 million for information leading to his arrest.
The Gulf Cartel was founded in the 30's when capos were looking to smuggle whiskey and other illegal goods to the United States that eventually would grow significantly in the 70's under the leadership of Juan Garcia Abrego. Following the arrest of Abrego in 1996, Oscar Malherbe de León took control of the organization but was arrested shortly after, leaving Osiel Cardenas Guillen in control of the organization, who would eventually be arrested in 2003. The Gulf Cartel controls the majority of exports of cocaine and marijuana through the frontier town of Matamoros.
The Gulf cartel for many years was Mexico's most powerful trafficking organization, second only to the older Sinaloa cartel, based in the Pacific state of the same name. The Gulf group has held sway over all of the large state of Tamaulipas in northeastern Mexico that borders Texas and provides important smuggling routes into the U.S. It controls police and politicians, buys off businessmen and intimidates journalists.
The Gulf cartel beefed up its firepower about a decade ago by recruiting and building the Zetas paramilitary force, which was initially the organization's armed wing. This year, however, the Zetas, like Frankenstein, turned on their masters, broke away to form their own trafficking racket and declared bitter war on Cardenas and his cohorts.
Hundreds of people have been killed in the fight between the Gulf cartel and the Zetas, with the latter group, an especially ruthless band, steadily gaining territory.
Mexican and U.S. authorities had been stepping up the pressure to capture Cardenas, who is said to have lived relatively openly in Matamoros. His wife lives in Houston, according to Mexican government documents.
"He was considered a very dangerous figure … very bloodthirsty," Ricardo Ravelo, author of several books on Mexican drug trafficking, said Friday night in a radio interview.
He was a stone-hearted thug, Ravelo said, who tortured and beheaded victims and didn't hesitate to kill. He had fully half of the Tamaulipas police force at his service and providing protection, Ravelo added.
What is Next?
The death of Cardenas will be seen as an important victory for beleaguered President Felipe Calderon, who nearly four years ago launched a military offensive against drug cartels that has claimed about 30,000 lives.
Still, any significant setback for drug trafficking or a halt to violence remains uncertain because commanders are readily replaced, and the demise of one leader often triggers an even bloodier power struggle.
After the fighting in Matamoros Tamaulipas, where the Mexican marines shot down Antonio Ezequiel Cardenas Guillen alias "Tony Tormenta," in the city of Nuevo Laredo "UNIDAD ZTAS" put up three "narcobanners."
In each of the "narcobanners" it read the followings:
"Once again it shows the fate of the traitors in the Gulf cartel (Las Golfas), who do not fit in anywhere, not even in hell, there they will find Los Zetas who went before us, to kill again. For all the traitors of the Gulf cartel bring out the school of the informant of Osiel, let's see where they go hide because they have nowhere to go, they are walking around in circles around the same frying pan ... Sincerely Unidad ZTAS"
I don't think we need to tell you what is going to happen next, , , ,
Soures: LA Times